Saving our Water Ways With Fluorescence
Jackson Harris
St George's School
Floor Location : J 209 V

Currently, there are very few regulations surrounding personal water crafts (PWCs) and fuel. A PWC is anything as large as a 120-foot private yacht, or as small as a Sea-Doo. This lack of regulation makes it very easy for inexperienced, and experienced, boaters to leak fuel. The fuel that is most typically used by PWC operators would be gasoline and diesel, which are both difficult to see in open water. This causes a large problem for marinas and can lead to harmful contamination. An example of this was a diesel spill that occurred in False Creek in 2015. An estimated 1,000 litres of diesel were leaked and went unnoticed for three days. When I heard about this I wondered if adding dye to make the fuel glow would make it easier to see. I did research and found an inexpensive and environmentally safe fluorescent fuel additive that bonds to all oil-based fuels. It only fluoresces under black light, meaning it does not visually affect the environment at all. Presently, this dye is being safely used as a diagnostic tool in car engines, so it also won't do any harmful damage to a boat engine. My hypothesis states that the use of fluorescent fuel additives in marine diesel will improve the early detection of fuel leaks in marinas. To test my hypothesis I set up an experimental protocol in which fuel was leaked at a consistent level for five minutes and photos were taken every 30 seconds. Volunteers looked at three sets of photos of containers: one without diesel, one with diesel, and one with diesel containing the dye under a black light. My results showed that everybody saw the fluorescent immediately in the dyed diesel, but there was significant inconsistency with the diesel and clean water (control). Volunteers were largely unable to distinguish between the clean water and non-dyed diesel photos. In conclusion, I found my hypothesis was correct. The use of fluorescent fuel additives in marine diesel does improve the early detection of contaminating leaks in marinas. PWC fuel leaks are a major problem, actually causing more harm to our environment annually than commercial vessels like oil tankers and freighters. I have created a simple, inexpensive, and effective method to make fuel easier to see using existing technologies.